Richland council to vote again on transportation plan, Rachel Road extension

Tri-City HeraldJune 23, 2014 

Clearwater Creek Area

Site of the proposed Clearwater Creek subdivision near where the Amon Wasteway from the Kennewick Irrigation District's canal flows towards the Yakima River along Steptoe Street.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The Richland City Council will take another vote tonight on a transportation plan that includes the controversial extension of Rachel Road.

The council approved the six-year Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP, in a split vote last week, following a lengthy public hearing. But the council may have needed to wait a week before voting.

City codes say that "issues for which the council holds public hearings shall be voted on only after at least one week has passed," unless a motion is approved determining the issue is an emergency or noncontroversial or the vote is to approve the first reading of an ordinance.

The city received an inquiry about that section of code and how it relates to the council's vote last week, and "the city is currently looking into the issue," the city attorney said in a statement.

Out of an abundance of caution and to ensure external deadlines are met, the council will vote again on the TIP during the special meeting, the statement said. The council also will again take up the shoreline master program update, which also had a public hearing last week.

The special meeting is at 6 p.m. at city hall, 505 Swift Blvd. No new public input will be allowed, per the city code.

Public comment on the TIP during last week's meeting lasted more than two hours, with most speakers opposed to the extension of Rachel Road. The council ultimately voted 3-2 to approve the TIP. Two council members were absent.

The TIP is a financial and project management tool that's updated each year.

The inclusion of the Rachel Road extension doesn't mean the road project would happen right away -- or even necessarily at all, city officials have said. The extension doesn't yet have funding, and more study will happen, they have said.

They've said the extension would improve safety and quality of life by relieving traffic congestion and improving connectivity for pedestrians, bicyclists and emergency vehicles.

But numerous residents have spoken out against it, largely over concern about harm to the Amon Creek Natural Preserve. The extension would have to cross part of the 80-plus-acre preserve.

The meeting last week drew dozens to council chambers, with residents overflowing into the lobby area.

-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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